I’ve been wanting to do this recipe as a video blog, but due to an uncharacteristic bout of responsibility, I sent Sony back their loaner HD camcorder and I just haven’t been able to work up the enthusiasm to use my somewhat dilapidated Canon. So this is a story I will have to tell in words.
Earlier this spring, in my article Rehabilitating Vermouth I extolled the virtues of vermouth, particularly sweet vermouth. Too many people who should know better refuse to give vermouth its due. The proper martini is as much about good vermouth as it is about good gin, and if you believe otherwise you are a visigoth.
The problem, of course, is in finding good vermouth. Cinzano is serviceable on the sweet side, but not really transcendant, and Noilly Prat is the standard great dry vermouth. But can’t we do better than that?
It turns out we can. I’m happy to report that, at least as far as sweet vermouth goes, the solution is to buy American. Quady winery’s Vya sweet vermouth is a revelation. Redolent of cinnamon, herbs, and properly balancing sweet and bitter, it brings a much needed freshness to this oft-neglected class of drink.
The Vya is a bit expensive ($17.99 for a 750 ml bottle at my local liquor store), but if you taste it side by side with one of the European brands you will agree that it’s worth it. It stands up on its own over ice (as always, I suggest a glass of vermouth and a small plate of anchovies and good green olives to really open your eyes.) But it works well as a mixer, too, and the classic drink we think of when talking about sweet vermouth is the Manhattan.
The Manhattan, like the Martini, has suffered from spirits inflation over the years. Perhaps because the vermouth on most people’s shelves is stale and syrupy, the typical Manhattan you’ll find in a bar is really a big glass of bourbon with a few drops of vermouth and a disgusting maraschino cherry. We can do better than that. Here’s my contribution.
- 1 shot Rye Whiskey. I’m using Old Overholt for this at the moment. I use rye simply because I prefer the bitter edge to that of bourbon.
- 1 shot Vya sweet vermouth.
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice. Serve (optionally, strain after stirring into a glass without ice, and garnish according to your preference).
There’s a school of thought that thinks a manhattan should be served with an orange slice. I’ve never liked this. It’s inappropriate and utterly beside the point; I can only imagine that the person that came up with this also dreamed up the idea that one should put a sprig of parsley on a steak. If you think you would miss the orange, however, let me suggest an alternative: add to the finished drink the merest splash — just a drop or two — of Cointreau.